Boundaries are important in helping us function with other people. You have to know where you start and end to have a healthy relationship, or interaction with anyone. Don’t just set boundaries to keep yourself safe from aggressive or toxic people, use it with everyone including yourself.
There is such a huge range of boundaries, from letting people touch your property to taking responsibly for your thoughts, feelings and behavior. You can be good with boundaries in one area and be completely terrible with boundaries in another area.
I love how Pia Melody breaks down the different types of boundaries in “Facing codependence”. She also explains how dysfunctional boundaries are formed and gives great examples. I think I fall in her fourth kind (4) moving back and forth from walls to no boundaries. And I think the type of wall I have is a wall of silence. You can buy facing codependence here on Amazon.
What are boundaries?
In short boundaries are what you let in and what you put out. Your boundaries are a reflection of your self esteem and your ego. If your boundaries (self esteem) is healthy, you are in the middle of, no boundaries and having a wall. If your ego is unhealthy, you step over other people’s boundaries.
It takes time to develop boundaries. Do not overextend
yourself or be aggressive. This is especially difficult if you have been
walking on eggshells. Only redefine your boundaries when it truly maintains
your self worth. Here are some tips that will help you start to set healthy
boundaries that work for you.
1. Listen to your gut
Its important that you tune into your
feelings. Your feelings are like an emotional hot stove. Your feelings will let
you know what you can move towards and what you need to get away from. Are you
feeling used, hurt, resentful? Feelings of discomfort are a sign that your
boundaries have been crossed.
Better yet, back up to the subtle sensations in your body, so you can figure how to reclaim your self value before you even feel hurt or resentful. Some people will not even realize it till they are even further and feeling depression or anxiety.
It can take time to understand when you are
being mistreated if everyone is doing what you are uncomfortable with, and they
are not uncomfortable. Do what works for you, not what others are doing. Don’t
be fooled into thinking your standards are too high or unreasonable.
2. Have a line in the sand
What will you not put up with? Identify
this and stick to it. It shouldn’t matter if someone is having a bad day, or if
someone is cognitively challenged in someway. In fact someone can be completely
healthy and just have a complete different set of boundaries and values.
Avoid trying to change or teach someone else basic behavior, or figuring out whether they are being intentional or unintentional. Don’t make exceptions you are not OK with. Decide what is workable and what is not workable.
For instance, instead of usually saying
this person is using me, and complaining waiting for that person to come to
their senses and treat you appropriately, take action. Its you who needs to
“come to their senses” and make a change and ensure you are treated
3. Be tactful
Being direct in your communication is the
best approach you can have. You must realize though, that it might not be
received well. This is the reason why I used to avoid setting boundaries. But
don’t give up, it’s a learning process.
Find someone you can practice with, a friend,
a therapist, and do some role play. If you don’t have anyone to help, practice
in the mirror or with a picture. Try starting with a positive, inserting your
boundary, then ending with a positive.
This would be: I really like … I don’t
want… I like… For example, I really like spending time with you, its fun and I
like catching up with you. I don’t want to have any more discussions about my
weight. Its a sensitive topic for me, so lets just not talk about it anymore.
Our other discussions are great, and I really enjoy talking about other topics
The person might feel hurt and even get defensive but its better to set your boundary than train yourself to accept what you are not OK with. It might even feel weird at first, because its an adjustment for both of you, but it gets better.
4. Do not Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain
– J.A.D.E: Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain. Most of us feel the need to JADE, this is in fact usually a sign that your boundaries are being
crossed. Do you find yourself trying to justify why you made your choice? Or
having to argue about your choices? Or maybe you keep finding yourself
defending what choices you make. Or are you constantly explaining and over
explaining why you made that choice?
Its really hard to make that shift if you are accustomed to JADE. The only exception should be when your dealing with children. With children you must make everything a teaching moment. Explain to them why, whether they agree or not is not the point.
Note that you do not need to explain yourself if you are addressing your adult child. Keep explanations age appropriate and don’t over-explain. Be concise.
I grew up with that parent who said,
“because I said so.” Or “Its my house I make the rules.” This is really common.
However, statements like this will invalidate a child and erode their sense of
5. Have self awareness
When you start to set boundaries, you need
to maintain self awareness to ensure you are not swinging too much on one side.
Like I mentioned earlier, your emotions help you figure out what to stay away
from. But be aware not to just switch to the opposite end.
The opposite of dysfunction is more
dysfunction. For instance, not spending enough time with your partner is not
healthy for a relationship; but also spending too much time with your partner
is not healthy for a relationship.
It will take some trying things out to figure out how to get what you need at the right balance. It’s especially worth it when you figure out your internal boundaries, and its a relief to finally shift from blaming other people to owning your behavior and taking control of your life.
6. Define your consequences
A boundary cannot exist without a consequence. If you take anything away from reading this, it should be that a boundary must have a consequence you are wiling to implement. What are your deal breakers? Everything will not be a deal breaker: most things can be worked out with honest solutions-oriented communication.
Remind people of your boundary and then tell them a future consequence when they break the boundary. If the person still continually breaks your boundary, even after you take action, put some distance between you and the person.
Limit or minimize contact with this person. For example, turning down invitations. Be prepared to let go if necessary. This might mean quitting your job or breaking up with your partner. This is important when the problem is not communication and you cant resolve the situation.
7. Be assertive
Be consistent and follow through. Don’t
slip into your old habits. Its natural for people to test boundaries. You
especially see this in children. When your boundaries are pushed you will find
yourself slipping into the fight, flight, freeze or fawn response.
Once you are in this survival mode its hard
to make a reasonable decision. Have you ever spoken to your boss, then left
there wondering why you agreed to work over the weekend, or why you asked for 3
days off instead of 7?
You can wiggle out of this state by
breathing deeply. This will trigger your relaxation. Also make an effort to
remain present: What is the colour of their hair? How many red objects are in
the room? What do your feet feel like in your shoes. Etc.
8. Practice self care.
Start small and slowly build to create your
new life. It will be hard at first so make sure you take small steps to avoid
overwhelming yourself. Acknowledge the small victories and ensure you are practicing
Once your life gets better and you start to
have more meaningful relationships, you might find that you shift to shame: “I
should have known better. Why did I let this person treat me this way?”
Be Kind to yourself and forgive yourself. As they say: Once you know better, you do better. Forgive yourself for what you didn’t know. You will also refine these boundaries once you start to figure out if it really works and as you grow. You won’t know unless you try.
Congratulations! You are now your core self!
Actually its not that simple. But the good news is that building a life you love is not about becoming someone else. Its about getting rid of all the mistaken beliefs we are all programmed with. It’s an unbecoming.
Deep down you are already this balanced person with healthy boundaries, so it should feel natural at the end of the process. Creating appropriate healthy boundaries leads to your core self.
Remember to listen to your gut, have a line in the sand, be
tactful, don’t JADE, have self-awareness,
define your consequences, be assertive and practice selfcare. This will not
only retain your dignity and respect but will also enable you to be your
What did you used to think boundaries are? Did this help you get a better idea of what boundaries are? Is any tip helpful? Are there any other tips or important points you would like to share? Please comment below.
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